By Olga Bradshaw - 21st January 2009
MEMBERS of Newbuildings and District Archaeological and Historical Society are eagerly awaiting the results of a new survey scheduled to take place this week, to discover what lies beneath a rath which has been discovered in the village... continues...
Contrary to press reports in August, the National Museum of Ireland did not rule out that Ireland could have been Atlantis (Full text). The previous reports were apparently the result of quoting out of context.
There is a new website for the theory now, AtlantisInIreland.com, which includes a blog and an invitation to a real time debate.
Irish Times: Historic sites Bill likely to face legal challenge
The Irish Times
17 June 2004
Opponents of newly-published legislation, which will give the Government power to proceed with road projects which interfere with national monuments after archaeological works are carried out, have threatened to challenge the legislation in the courts... continues...
IMPORTANT archaeological sites, including Ireland's oldest Viking settlement, will be threatened if the Government's proposed amendment to the National Monuments Bill is passed, heritage activists said yesterday... continues...
I suspect that this news comes in defence of folklore which in turn preserves the archaeological monuments by superstition or 'piseogs' to use the rather lovely Irish word.........
Superstitions may seem strange and baseless, but somehow they have clung on for thousands of years. Are they a sign of respect for the past and if so just how much longer might they last?
WHEN I WAS growing up, there was a ring fort at the end of our road. We were warned not to play there. It was accepted that fairy forts contained some mystique or potential for harm. Our parents were probably told the same by their parents, and so on through the generations. But has belief in science and technology replaced faith in superstitions?
Perhaps not. Dara Molloy, a former Roman Catholic priest based on Inis Mór, is in demand to perform Celtic rituals and blessings. When we spoke last week, he was at a wedding ceremony in which he used blessings dating from what he terms "Celtic Christianity". It involves the tying of knots and sprinkling of water from a nearby well. These practices predate the Roman Catholic Church, he says, and are more in keeping with old Irish customs and beliefs. "We held on to a lot of traditions but they were pushed to the margins of the church," he says. "People still visit holy wells, climb Croagh Patrick or go to Lough Derg, but many other Irish customs and traditions didn't carry on and some local priests were instrumental in encouraging them to be abandoned."
Molloy says when he first moved to the Aran Islands 25 years ago, he was struck by the reverence the locals had for ancient sites and monuments. "Neighbours of mine on Inis Mór who were born and raised on the island had never been up to the hill fort of Dún Aengus," he says. "One of the reasons given was that their parents wouldn't let them. They said the place was lived in by the sióga or other world folk. Nowadays some young locals want to have their weddings up there because they believe the energy of the sióga is there. The belief hasn't been lost. It is just used differently. I have witnessed young adults who want to go to Dún Aengus and sleep there overnight to get the feeling that is up there."
That feeling may relate to the fact the site has been used by locals for centuries as a place of gathering or safety.
Piseogs [superstitions] are still heeded on the islands too, says Molloy. That is why a red-haired woman who turns up at a door on New Year's Eve is unlikely to be shown indoors. "It would be a bad omen for the coming years," he says.
Colm Moloney, managing director of Headland Archaeology, says much has been lost in recent years in relation to Irish folklore. "My own childhood revolved around my dad, who spent a lot of his time walking his greyhounds (and his children) around the landscape of east Cork. Every hill, river, nook and cranny had a story attached to it and he told them so well it was captivating," he says. "Modern Ireland does not readily facilitate this kind of activity. Landowners have a problem with people wandering across their land and kids have so much to distract them, it is near impossible to get them outside."
Moloney says much of our folklore is in danger in the hands of the current generation. "The Irish psyche has changed. The respect that was there for the past is losing ground. Our knowledge and links to the past through oral traditions were what made us unique."
There have been reports recently that a farmer destroyed a ring fort in Co Cork. This would not have occurred a decade ago, he says. Folklore often existed to protect the built heritage and vice versa.
"Every country boy knew the traditions associated with ring forts," he says. "If you touched the fairy forts something very bad would happen to you. This tradition and similar kinds of piseog resulted in the preservation of archaeological monuments across the country, probably for thousands of years.
"This is a frightening development, where 30 sq m of farmland is of greater value than a monument that may have stood on that spot for 1,200 years."
THE evil influence of the fairy glance does not kill, but it throws the object into a death-like trance, in which the real body is carried off to some fairy mansion, while a log of wood, or some ugly, deformed creature is left in its place, clothed with the shadow of the stolen form.
Young women, remarkable for beauty, young men, and handsome children, are the chief victims of the fairy stroke. The girls are wedded to fairy chiefs, and the young men to fairy queens; and if the mortal children do not turn out well, they are sent back, and others carried off in their place.
It is sometimes possible, by the spells of a powerful fairy-man, to bring back a living being from Fairy-land. But they are never quite the same after. They have always a spirit-look, especially if they have listened to the fairy music. For the fairy music is soft and low and plaintive, with a fatal charm for mortal ears.
Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland By Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde
"Megalithomania is the story of one man's journey across 10 years (and counting) around the stones of Ireland. Tom Fourwinds' site is a catalogue of over 2200 sites, containing more than 10,000 photographs of Irish sites, and is a testament to his stamina and zeal."
A Road on the Long Ridge - In search of an Ancient Highway on the Eiscar Riada by Hermann Geissel.
This is a free pdf book based on the TG4 program about a journey on the Eiscar Riada or Sli Mor from Dublin to Galway.
It is a great read and he also proposes that Early Christain sites were constructed beside the road for access etc.
It could also be argued that perhaps some of these were based on early prehistoric sites and therefore sites were located near the road.
It also has a section on Croghan Hill and it mentions the alignment of the Hill of Uisneach - Croghan Hill on Winter Solstice Sunrise.
"Ireland's road network is experiencing an astonishing development, with sometimes controversial implications for the country's rich and largely unexplored rural heritage. Dàire O'Rourke, senior archaeologist at the National Roads Authority, says a new code means everyone will benefit."
I was expecting a bit more from this given Healy's notes below. However, most of the souterrains are now backfilled again since his excavations 122 years ago. You can just see the corbelling of one, the second as he describes it.
We had traipsed up the right-of-way lane just off the Johnstown to Freshford road. The rath is enormous, thoroughly overgrown (especially now in mid-June) and utterly compelling. The inner ditch is over 5 metres deep in places, the south-western arc being the most accessible. There is the remnants of an entrance here too. I can't guess the diameter, 50 metres could be close, but it may be much more. This would, in my estimation, have been a 'high-status' (dreadful term) habitation site. It's yet another of those places that could be marketed (yikes) to joe public as it really is impressive and even held a fascination for my not very interested companion.
We approached this monument from the north via the 'cairn' in Clomantagh (Mount Garret). In fact, this is in the same townland. There are no notes that I can find on this passage grave anywhere. No archaeological inventory has been published for Kilkenny, nor has the survey of megalithic tombs emerged for this region. Someone even mentions it as a wedge tomb, but given its situation at the top of Mount Garret, it's more likely a passage tomb.
There is what looks like a passage semi-exposed down the middle of the mound, aligned roughly east-west. There are also what look to be passage roof-stones, some in situ, some cast aside. Two peculiar stones protrude above the remaining cairn by about .75 of a metre about midway down this 'passage'. There is much cairn material still here, but you do get the sense that much has been robbed away also. There is, again what seems to be, a subsidiary 'chamber' on the south-side of the passage with no roofstone and the chamber filled in and some orthostats visible.
It's in a great spot with views all around, the best being to the west and south. I doubt if anybody has visited this tomb for prehistorical reasons since bawn was last here.
The Rath of Borrismore.
I have lately put men to work at the Rath of Borrismore, within a mile of Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny, which was traditionally said to have caves or underground passages, the covering flag of the roof of one being barely visible. I have found and fully cleared out three splendid chambers: first chamber is 10 ft. 6 in. x 6 ft. wide, and 6 ft. 2in. high; second chamber is 11 ft. long, and varies in width from 5 ft. 1 in. to 5 ft. 10in. , height of roof 6 ft. 2 in. to 3 ft. The doors are about 2 ft. 6 in. high, and 16 in. wide. The one from first room to second room is of inclined jambs: the others mostly the one width above and below. The third chamber is 11 ft. 4 in. x 7 ft., and has a door on its north side, but there does not appear to be any chamber or passage to which it gave entrance. They must have intended to construct others at a future time. The chambers follow each other in a direct line, and the opening was in the centre of the rath. They are built of limestone and gritstone, but no indication of mortar of any kind being used. Within a hundred yards of the rath are two quarries, one of limestone, and the other of a whitish gritstone, such as is used in the building of these chambers. I will publish a full account and dimensions of them shortly. They were all firmly packed with sand and stones as if to effectively close them from being haunts of robbers. About eighty years ago, Kilkenny men when digging for gold, broke in the roof of the third chamber. Its floor is 14 feet below the surface, and I have made a rude staircase for visitors to ascend and descend who would not care to travel on hands and feet through the doorways. – W. Healy, P.P., Hon. Provincial Secretary for Leinster.
The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Ser. 5, Vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 490, 1891